I love the Olympics, I really do.
But my disdain for NBC’s coverage continues to grow…but credit where it is due: their swimming coverage is amazing, and that’s partly because of how amazing Rowdy Gaines is—and how infectious his excitement is. You can hear it in his voice: you just know he is jumping up and down in the broadcast booth with tears in his eyes. I remember when Rowdy himself was competing at the Olympics, with his thinning blond hair and his big blue eyes and that big goofy infectious grin. I was really happy when they added him to the swimming coverage. (Rowdy went to Auburn, and one of my favorite Youtube videos of the amazing “Kick-Six” finish to the Iron Bowl several years ago showed Rowdy jumping up and down and screaming in front of his television; it always makes me smile.)
The men’s 4 x 100 freestyle swimming relay last night was incredibly exciting, I have to admit. Paul and I were screaming as loudly as if we were actually in the Aquatic Center in Rio de Janeiro. We are both huge fans of Michael Phelps, obviously—you cannot be an Olympic fan without being a fan of Phelps—and his legendary accomplishments will probably never be matched. The US have dominated this relay since it was first included in the games; the first time we lost the gold was in Sydney, and then again in Athens. It was absolutely necessary for the relay team to take gold in Beijing in order for Phelps to beat Mark Spitz’ long-held record of most golds in a single games, and no one thought the US had a chance. That race was EPIC, with Jason Lezac swimming the fastest 100 ever and out-touching the French at the wall to give Phelps his second (of eight) golds at the games. Had they not won that relay, Phelps could have only tied Spitz’ record; instead he went on to win eight golds. He now has nineteen in total, which is incredible. Only Larissa Latynina of the old Soviet Union has nineteen Olympic medals, and not all of hers were gold. Phelps has twenty-three in total now.
And the medal ceremony! I teared up a bit myself when Ryan Held couldn’t stop himself from crying during the National Anthem, and what was even more adorable was Phelps himself putting a hand on his neck and then giving him a big brotherly hug and head rub after.
We forget, really, that so many of these athletes are really just kids.
And the dominance of the US women’s gymnastics team! Anything can happen, but to win qualifying by almost ten points? A fall off the apparatus is a .5 deduction; with that margin of victory, they could have taken nineteen falls and still won. Wow. As I said, anything can happen during the team, all-around, and event finals, but the US women could easily walk away from these Olympics with ten medals—six of them gold. I can remember a day when any medal for an American woman was a dream…and now they are poised to dominate. And the diversity! Two African-American women, one Latina, a Jewish girl, and a white one. In a year where ‘make American great again’ is really just another racist dog whistle, our diverse women’s gymnastics team is making America greater than it EVER has been.
It is funny, though, how nationalist and patriotic the Olympics can make you feel. But I take such great pride in our athletes, our young men and women, and their excellence, and it’s such a joy to watch their pleasure in making their dreams come true.
And really, that’s what America’s dream—that shining city on a hill—has always been: that any American can work hard enough to make their dreams come true, no matter who they are. There are many Americans who no longer believe, or feel, that is true anymore, and we need to get that hope back, and not only bring back that hope but help people make it a reality.
And now, back to the spice mines.